I don’t believe in writer’s block. I used to. But not anymore. I thought I had it for about 6 years. I would sit down to write and… nothing. I would force something, then crumple it up into nothing.
That six years came to an end when I realised how it started.
There’s no such thing as writer’s block. There’s putting ourselves under so much pressure to write something good that we end up not writing at all. There’s taking ourselves too seriously when people start noticing our writing so that we end up messing up something that used to feel like play. There’s deciding to derive pain from writing – especially for bigger projects – instead of playing through the process and trying different methods until something finally fits. If you’re blogging, there’s trying to rush to create that next post because you don’t want to disappoint people. There’s trying to write like someone you’ve deemed successful. But if you do that, who’s left to write like you?
There’s persistently following an idea that no longer wants to be written about while ignoring the new one that does. There’s adjusting to a phase when you were a different person and you wrote like that person you were. But now you’re someone else and you’re still getting acquainted to that new voice in the midst of the busy shuffle of life. There are times when it is time to be truthful but it would be too painful to uncover all the layers of that topic as you write. There is a time to waffle, write things that you never want anyone to see. Some of them ridiculous, others angry, others still: shameful, embarrassing, or taboo. That is still writing. All completely understandable. There are also seasons, something we don’t permit in our writing endeavours.
There are seasons of ceaseless inspiration – where ideas are rampant. And just as you’re attempting to figure out how best to express the last idea, the next ten are upon you. Other times, it is a season of rest or reflection. Not necessarily of stagnation or barrenness. But rest. I can usually feel that I can sit down and dig into an idea, any idea -which is all it really takes- and write and write but I’m better off jotting that idea down, then lying fallow for a bit perhaps because I’m not yet in the right spirit of things.
Do you talk to yourself sometimes? Then you can write whatever you’ll be saying. A text to your mother is writing. An honest message written to a friend or a lover or a stranger is writing. If you took those words and put them in a Word document and assigned them a random title, you could say you’ve officially written. You could use this trick anytime you think writer’s block is descending upon you. Usually you’ll expound on those words – now that you’re talking to yourself- and end up with a whole piece of writing. Afterwards, you can then experiment with the flow and expression of it all.
So, really, what is this writer’s block we speak of? It might as well be a mythical animal. Because it doesn’t have to exist. Lower your expectations of yourself and go back to when you were a child and you didn’t really care if you fell on the playground. Did you ever think, I can’t go play with my friends because I might fall. I can’t call my best friend because the call might drop. It seems crazy to classify any of those things as failure.
Maybe we have turned writing into another win or fail situation yet I think first and foremost, it’s about enjoying it while figuring out how best to do it as individuals. I want to allow myself to maybe one day write a masterpiece by accident. Every other day, I feel bliss just from making something. Because, to me, every piece of writing is as if I’ve pulled something from nothingness into existence. Or I’ve made something out of challenging aspects of my life. Just last week I was looking at my ‘body of work’😌 counting the number of poems, essays and other things I’d written over the past few years. And I was impressed. Most of them weren’t all that. But I was still impressed. To me, they are all my legacy to myself. My gift to my life.
The prospect of falling never occurred to you at 5 years old when you were asking to go out to play, did it?
Go back there, to that mentality. Then write.
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